Matthew Ernst

Vice President Digital Services,Business Development & Learning, Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE), Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health

Supernova Award Category: 

Data to Decisions

The Organization: 

The Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group was founded in 2014 to create innovative products, services, and business models for Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. Since then, we’ve delivered on this goal by positioning Jefferson as a consumer-focused, digital-ready and innovative organization. The Dice Group has developed over 130 solutions. These solutions have helped Jefferson reduce costs, increase revenue, and add more patient visits and student enrollments

The Problem: 

Jefferson Health recognizes that safety is the No. 1 priority for patients, staff, and anyone visiting any of their campuses. For more than 120 days, 25,000 Jefferson Health professionals and support staff worked tirelessly to fight COVID-19. Our health system treated more COVID-19 patients than any other in the Philadelphia area. Chatbots and other tech tools are launching at a frenetic pace to handle the volume of queries, provide accurate information as it changes daily, and reassure our patients that Jefferson is following protocols and best practices to contain and slow the spread of the coronavirus. The aim is to lessen the load on phone lines and reduce personal contact with hard-pressed medical staff already at elevated risk of contracting the virus. Jefferson needed to alleviate traffic to our telemedicine platform, call center, and the Emergency Department. The Chatbot we launched in 2019 provided that much-needed help.  

The Solution: 

Jefferson Health is using artificial intelligence — in the form of Chatbots — to make it easier for patients to make appointments online. During a trial period in 2019, our Chatbots were used in 70% of the health system's digital online appointment submissions. They outperformed traditional online forms by 150% and improved the overall submission rate by more than 155%. The success of the appointment bot prompted The Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group at Jefferson Health to develop a Chabot that allows patients to self-asses their COVID-19 risk by answering a handful of questions. The goal was to provide access to authentic, helpful and easy-to-understand information about the disease, their exposure to it, and empower them to make decisions based on current criteria and guideline

The Results: 

Our Chabot provided on-demand access at any time. The tool helped educate and inform the patient population, disseminating up-to-date guidelines in a rapidly evolving pandemic environment. It launched April 1 and immediately experienced high demand, receiving 3,392 visits in the first month. Users cited its ease of use and timeliness as positives, and they trusted that it had the latest criteria to offer them an accurate screening. Chatbots conduct interactive, high-quality conversations that previously were the work of human agents. The results show how strong the patient preference has become for conversational technology. People want seamless digital experiences as part of their care experience. The ability to gain authentic, helpful and easy-to-understand information about COVID-19 and their exposure to it, and the empowerment to make decisions through the conversational technology of a Chabot is a key innovation opportunity to improve the patient experience. 


The COVID-19 Chabot received 3,392 visits in April and saw a 25% increase in traffic in the months that followed. There has been an actual decrease in appointment requests during this same time period since patients are less likely to make nonessential appointments. The Chatbot pilot program allowed for the perfecting of the conversational flow to get Jefferson patients through the appointment request process. User testing identified various hurdles that resulted in patients abandoning the process. The ability to optimize the conversational flow on the fly helped to ultimately achieve a performance level where the Chatbot was helping patients successfully submit appointment requests at three times the rate of online forms. Having this knowledge provided DICE with a key innovation opportunity at a time when healthcare providers were looking for new ways to interact with patients in a safe and secure

The Technology: 

The technology utilized for this project consisted of LifeLink, customized development on the ServiceNow platform, and Domo to capture usage statistics and metrics 

Disruptive Factor: 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to examine existing technology and make it work in new ways. Providing a streamlined, simple, and secure way to take the load off phone lines and reduce personal contact with hard-pressed medical staff already at great risk of contracting the virus was the top priority. Jefferson needed to alleviate traffic to our telemedicine platform, call center, and Emergency Department while still providing optimal care. The COVID-19 Chabot helped us accomplish those goals.

Shining Moment: 

At Jefferson safety is the No. 1 priority for patients, staff, and visitors. For 120+ days, 25,000 Jefferson Health professionals and support staff worked tirelessly to fight COVID-19. Despite having treated more COVID-19 patients than any other system in the Philadelphia area, we have been very successful in protecting staff with only about 1 percent of employees testing positive. Providing care during the pandemic was delivered safely, and as a result, patients and staff have remained safe.

About Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health

Jefferson Health, a multi-state health system provides primary to highly specialized care through 14 hospitals and 50+ outpatient/urgent care locations across PA and NJ.  The University, born out of a unique merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University with distinctive, award-winning curriculum, prepares students with skills needed to succeed and lead in the future of work.